Local chef turns a passion project into a thriving brand.
When COVID restaurant closures forced chef Kyle Darling out of the kitchen, the Maple Grove resident decided to work toward his dream of opening his own butcher shop. “Nobody knew what was going to happen,” Darling says about the initial restaurant closures. Rather than sit idle during that spring, he started to learn the ins and outs of entrepreneurship and began the process of designing his own brand, Darling’s Salts & Rubs.
“My long-term goal is I want to open a butcher shop where I would sell these spices anyway, so I was like, ‘Why don’t I just put some time and effort into it now? I’ll need it down the road anyway,’” Darling says.
What started as a way to sell salts and rubs to friends and family quickly became a startling success. “Once I made the website and the Instagram, things took off like crazy,” Darling says. “It was just nuts. I could hardly keep up.”
Provided with the opportunity to test run his salts and rubs, Darling had the chance to sell his product at a butcher shop he worked at in St. Bonifacius. Allowing Darling to season some of the specialty cuts with his own mixes, customers began to rave about the flavor and would come back for their own tin of Darling’s Salts & Rubs.
Though specialty rubs and salts are generally designed for smoking meats, Darling says he has adapted his recipes to work in a variety of ways. “People have used them all differently,” he says, noting there’s really no right way or wrong way to use his products. For example, he likes to use his buffalo dry rub that was designed for chicken wings for the seasoning mix on his onion rings. Or for his lemon ranch blend, his friend enjoys it on pork chops while Darling prefers to use it for a seasoned sour cream.
Although visitors on his website are from all over the country, Darling has kept a local focus when it comes to creating and selling his salts and rubs by purchasing his seasonings from Midwest Rubs in St. Michael. Instead of buying in bulk, Darling can order 10 pounds of his various recipes at a time to ensure freshness of his product.
Similarly, he partnered with a St. Cloud-based coffee roaster, Kinder Coffee Lab, to locally source the coffee grounds used to create his coffee dry rub. Darling says the difference between his first batch using store-bought grounds and the second batch using Kinder Coffee Lab was mind-blowing due to the freshness of the beans.
In addition to his website, Darling’s Salts & Rubs can also be found at Fox Run, a Minnesota maker’s market located in The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes in Maple Grove. As for the future of his business, Darling says he hopes to introduce his products to more Minnesota-based stores and own his own butcher shop.
Learn how to spice up your meals with Darling’s Salts & Rubs from these fresh and tasty recipes by the chef himself.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Drain and rinse one can of chickpeas.
- Let air dry and spread onto a small baking sheet.
- Bake for 45 minutes, regularly stirring the chickpeas every 15 minutes.
- When crisp and still warm, lightly toss the chickpeas in one teaspoon of Darling’s Butchers Salt.
- Let cool for several minutes before devouring this salty treat.
Salmon Quinoa Salad
- Generously season the salmon with Darling’s Butchers Salt.
- Cook the salmon until it is pan seared, or grill the fish until it reaches the desired temperature.
- While the salmon is cooking, combine three ounces of spring lettuce mix, three ounces of cooked quinoa and three ounces of roasted cauliflower into a mixing bowl.
- Squeeze the juice from half of a lemon, and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the mixture for a refreshing twist.
- Pair the seared salmon with the quinoa salad and enjoy!
For an elevated twist on classic favorites, add Darling’s Truffle Salt to french fries, popcorn, steak and pasta. for an earthy and savory bite.
Salt: Facts and Fiction
Salt is a ubiquitous seasoning at many tables, but sometimes the mineral gets a bad rap. So, what are some salt myths that we can put to rest, and how can we enjoy this seasoning in a healthful way? We turned to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to help demystify sodium chloride, otherwise known as table salt.
Myth: We should cut all salt out of our diet.
While too much salt in a diet can result in heart disease, high blood pressure and increase the likelihood of a stroke, the mineral is actually an important nutrient for the human body. Salt balances fluids in the blood and can help regulate healthy blood pressure. It can also help the body conduct nerve impulses and contract and relax muscles.
While you may want to avoid overly processed meals with high sodium counts, sprinkling a little salt on a steak or some veggies is A-OK.
Myth: Natural salts are better for you.
Those pretty pink and enchanting black grains may look great, but natural salts like Himalayan, sea salt and black salt are not any healthier than standard table salt or kosher salt.
Though these larger-grained varieties are touted as products that contain beneficial minerals, the concentrations of iron, potassium and zinc aren’t high enough to create a nutritional benefit. However, they can add a unique taste to a dish.